It’s warm and sunny outside. You’re walking down the street and suddenly realize you’re thirsty, but you forgot your water bottle at home. It’s the first time you have consciously thought about water all day, and it’s already early afternoon. You’ve forgotten about the shower you took that morning, brushing your teeth, flushing the toilet, and the water you used to make your coffee. For many of us water is only a faucet away, but for nearly one billion people in the developing world water is not readily available.
Water is scarce. While many of us take it for granted, or even waste it, far too many people around the world spend a significant part of their day searching for it. Now let’s ask ourselves: where does our water go? The average person drinks about 2.5 liters of water per day. That doesn’t sound unreasonable.
You might be surprised to learn; however, that food production accounts for 70% of all water use, more than the amount needed for industrial and domestic use combined. This means that it takes about one thousand times more water to feed a single person than it takes to quench their thirst. But is this necessarily a problem? There are currently 7 billion people in the world to feed and another 2 billion expected by the year 2050. As the world’s population continues to grow at a rapid rate, the demand for freshwater will increase, placing an incredible strain on our water resources.
Is there anything we can do? A good place to start is by looking at our individual water footprints. This is defined as the total volume of freshwater that is consumed by an individual or community and takes into account both direct and indirect water use. If we understand how much water is used to make the foods we eat and the products we use, it becomes possible to make better choices and consume less water-intensive products.
The Water Footprint Network provides several online tools to help you determine your individual water footprint by answering questions about your food consumption habits, domestic water use and industrial water use. Based on my country of residence, gender, dietary habits (i.e. vegetarian vs. meat consumer) and gross yearly income my personal water footprint is 2230 cubic meters per year. For comparison, the global average is 1385 m³/yr per capita and the average in the United States is 2842 m³/yr per capita.
How can I reduce my water footprint? If I were to move to Colombia my water footprint would decrease to 2169 cubic meters per year, and if I were to become a vegetarian it would decrease to 1753 cubic meters per year. I could drink more tea and less coffee as it takes 35 liters of water to produce one cup of tea versus 140 liters to produce one cup of coffee. Better yet, let’s learn to be conscious of our choices, reduce food waste, and consume less water-intensive products.
Happy World Water Day!
If you would like to take action now, please support our Crowdtilt campaign and support Do Good Lab’s project partners in Malawi and Togo to gain access to clean water! The campaign runs only today (March 22) but you can always donate to our projects here.
For information on product water footprints check-out:
The World Water Day campaign of the United Nations
This post was written by Do Good Lab volunteer Laura Rubiano Gomez!